Title: The Man Who Wasn’t There
Director: Joel Coen
Starring: Billy Bob Thorton, Francis McDormand, James Gandolfini
Billy Bob Thorton plays Ed Crane, an small town barber whose life is turned upside down by a blackmail scheme gone wrong. This ‘Film Noir’ story follows the surprising twists and turns of Ed’s life as the consequences of his extortion plot play themselves out.
Like most of the other films created by the Coen brothers, this film is essentially a character study. In this story the character is Ed Crane, who is defined not by his actions but by his apathy. He doesn’t participate in idle conversation, introspection or even his own marriage.
Much like the characters from the Coen brothers’ earlier file “Millers Crossing”, Thorton’s perfomance is extremely restrained giving the film a brooding quality. However, Crane doesn’t engage in brooding either; he starts vacant and stays vacant.
It’s unclear if Crane is intended as an everyman or cautionary figure. The film fails to reveal anything about his character whatsoever except that he hasn’t got one.
It’s unclear what the Coen brothers were trying to accomplish, the film left me with a feeling of emptiness that makes it hard to form an opinion. The surreal plot twists of this film will make it watchable for ‘Film Noir’ fans, but it the end it fails to pay off.
To be fair the Coens never try to make easy films; sometimes they hit and sometimes they miss. Unfortunately this one is a miss.